The Eastern Suburbs might have been where I spent most of my time in Sydney, but I was always more interested in the city. ‘The City’ – it’s a pretty vague term, and for the longest time, I was convinced that really, it was just an extension of Randwick and Bondi Junction, but as I grew older, I came to appreciate the differences. I’m not sure I ever really came to love The City itself – like most cities that style themselves as ‘World Cities’, there is something unlovely and unlovable about Sydney, but that doesn’t mean that one can’t respect it.
I don’t want to add fuel to the fire that seems to rage between Melbournites and Sydney-siders, but whereas Melbourne seems to have a flavour and identity all its own, Sydney seems to be the little kid trying to wear his big brother’s clothes – to walk in Sydney is to walk into an inferiority complex. And that’s strange, because Melbourne seems to lack the geographical features that can shape a city and provide it with a unique identity while, thanks to the harbour, Sydney should be blessed with such geography. But it doesn’t work – there’s something soulless about it all – as if, despite the tall building and the flashing lights, there’s no one really in those buildings at all. Or as if it’s some great Truman Show-like escapade, where the only people are the ones in your field of vision, and as soon as you look away, they all disappear.
Other people will tell you stories about Circular Quay or Darling Harbour, or The Rocks, but never before has the old saying that ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ been more true. It’s hard to love a city that you’ve seen people throw up on regularly. Or enjoy the scenery when you’ve seen bouncers kick the living shit out of someone. It’s all a little bit too flash – of course, we all know the aim of the city is to separate you from your hard-earned, but, still, I like the city to look like they’re putting a bit of effort into it. No one likes a miserable prostitute.
And it’s got no cool. I know, it’s ridiculous, a middle aged white guy talking about cool, but it’s true. The more you try, the less cool you are, I know, and despite all of its architecture and award winning buildings, there’s something a little bit desperate about it all.
Except for the ferries. I like the ferries.